FM: Lebanon Must Excercise Sovereignty, Disarm Hezbollah

Livni: Enforcing arms embargo is crucial; Hezbollah official lashes out at Merkel stance towards Lebanon.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, heading home after a successful round of talks with the Bush administration, said Friday she expects the Lebanese government to prevent the re-arming of Hezbollah.

"Enforcing the arms embargo is crucial," Livni said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press as she headed for the airport. "We know that Hezbollah is weak in terms of arms."

Maintaining the embargo and disarming the Iranian-backed militant group with which Israel fought a costly war this summer, "is the test of the Lebanese government and the international community," she said.

"Lebanon has to exercise its sovereignty and disarm Hezbollah," Livni said. "It is our expectation" Lebanon will follow through.

This week Assistant Secretary of State David Welch told the Senate Foreign Committee smuggling of weapons across Syria's border with Lebanon had been halted.

And on Friday, a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make statements, said there were no indications of new infusions of weapons into Lebanon for Hezbollah.

Livni declined to provide estimates of how much of Hezbollah's arsenal was wiped out by Israeli air and ground assaults.

During the war, Israel reported 70 to 80 percent of Hezbollah's long and medium-range missiles, which were considered a strategic threat, were destroyed. Much of Hezbollah's short-range arsenal survived.

Hezbollah official lashes out at Merkel stance towards Lebanon

Earlier Friday, a Hezbollah minister in the Lebanese cabinet lashed out at comments made by Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding the situation in Lebanon.

Electricity Minister Mohammed Fneish criticized Merkel's comments which indicated that Germany's main concern was "Israel's security."

"This comment need to be reviewed as it offends Lebanon and contradicts the aim of the mission of the expected German naval forces who are coming to supervise the coast under a UN mandate," Fneish said as he entered a late cabinet session.

"If Merkel wants to protect Israel then her forces should be based in Israel and not in Lebanon," Fneish said.

Lebanon has made a formal request for Germany to patrol its waters as part of the expanded United Nations force in the war-torn country.

The German cabinet has decided to send 2,400 military personnel to the expanded UN force in Lebanon. The move still needs to be approved by the parliament.

Merkel has repeatedly called for a strong mandate for the naval force to search any "suspicious ship" bound for Lebanon to stop any arms from reaching Hezbollah militants.

The Lebanese coast is currently being patrolled on an interim basis by a UN-backed flotilla of French, Greek and Italian ships, but it does not have the right to use force.

Meanwhile, German experts working as consultants and supervisors at Beirut International airport and Beirut port were training Lebanese security officials on new equipment controlling security inside the airport and the port.

According to a Lebanese security source, "the German experts are training the Lebanese officers on new security techniques." The experts arrived in Beirut last week.